Zaza Pachulia

Central Notes: Galloway, Ellenson, Nance, Sumner, LaVine

Pistons guard Langston Galloway has reemerged as a rotation player under new coach Dwane Casey. Galloway was a forgotten man entering camp with Reggie Bullock, Stanley Johnson, Luke Kennard and free agent signee Glenn Robinson III seemingly ahead of him at the wing positions. But Casey’s emphasis on 3-point shooting has helped Galloway, who averaged 26 MPG during the preseason, gain a rotation spot.  “I’m one of the snipers on the team,” he told me in a Detroit Free Press story. Galloway is coming off a disappointing first year with the Pistons after signing a three-year, $21MM contract in free agency. He only appeared in 58 games under former coach Stan Van Gundy, averaging 6.2 PPG in 14.9 MPG.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Casey will go with a committee approach at the power positions behind his star duo of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. He’ll use free agent acquisition Zaza Pachulia at times when he goes with a conventional center. Power forward Jon Leuer, who is still working his way back from minor knee surgery, will be the primary backup in some games. When Casey uses smaller lineups, Johnson and Robinson will play some minutes at power forward. One player who is apparently out of the mix is 2016 first-round pick Henry Ellenson, who played just 10 minutes in the last three preseason games.
  • Larry Nance Jr.‘s rookie scale extension descends during the life of the contract, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. Nance signed a four-year, $44.8MM extension with the Cavaliers that kicks in next season. Joe Vardon of The Athletic was the first to report that Nance’s salary would steadily decline (Twitter link). His salary will go from $12.7MM next season to $11.7MM, $10.6MM and $9.6MM. That could help the Cavaliers open significant cap space in 2020, when it’s projected to rise to $116MM, Wojnarowski adds.
  • Pacers power forward Thaddeus Young believes two-way player Edmond Sumner is worthy of a standard contract, as he told Scott Agness of The Athletic (Twitter link). “He’s done very, very well. He has exceeded all expectations,” Young said. Summer appeared in 14 G League games and one with the Pacers last season. The 6’6” combo guard out of Xavier averaged 9.0 PPG in four preseason games but will likely spend the bulk of his second season with Fort Wayne once again.
  • Bulls shooting guard Zach LaVine appears to be fully recovered from the ACL injury he suffered during the 2016/17 season, Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago reports. LaVine averaged 17.8 points on 52% shooting in 22.3 MPG during the preseason. Chicago retained LaVine by matching the Kings’ four-year, $78MM during restricted free agency this summer. LaVine appeared in 24 games last season after being acquired from the Timberwolves. “I think I found a good rhythm and then just keep that going into the regular season. I think last year still, I was trying to catch my rhythm with the games I played,” LaVine said.

Central Notes: Pistons Lineup, Griffin, Smith, Paxson

Determining the two starters who will join Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson in the lineup is one of the things to watch for during the Pistons’ training camp, according to Keith Langlois of the team’s website. Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard are the three major candidates for those two slots. Jon Leuer, Henry Ellenson and Zaza Pachulia will vie for the role of first big man off the bench, though Leuer’s status for training camp is uncertain due to recent knee surgery, Langlois adds.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Having Griffin as the focal point of their offense for a full season has created optimism around the Pistons franchise, Ansar Khan of MLive writes in his latest player profile. The Pistons had trouble incorporating Griffin into the offense following the blockbuster trade with the Clippers in late January. But he has developed his all-around game and become a better 3-point shooter and passer, Khan continues. New coach Dwane Casey plans on putting the ball in his hands more often, Khan adds.
  • Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith was issued a desk ticket for misdemeanor criminal mischief after he allegedly tossed a fan’s cell phone into a construction site on July 26, according to an ESPN story. Smith spoke to police in New York City on Friday about the allegation and he will appear in Manhattan Criminal Court later this year.
  • Jim Paxson’s title with the Bulls has been changed from director of basketball operations to director of pro personnel, the team announced in a press release. The Bulls also promoted Brian Hagen to associate GM, Steve Weinman to assistant GM and and Miles Abbett to manager of minor league scouting and analytics.

Calderon, Pachulia Ideal Fits In Detroit

While it’s no guarantee that either player will crack new head coach Dwane Casey‘s rotation, both newly-acquired veterans Jose Calderon and Zaza Pachulia are ideal fits to complement the Pistons‘ roster, opines Keith Langlois of Pistons.com.

“They can still play an NBA basketball game. They can contribute,” says senior advisor Ed Stefanski. “But if they don’t play one night, they’re not going to be moping in the locker room. They’re going to be ready to play all the time and they’re going to help these young guys become professionals.”

With both Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith returning this season, Calderon is not likely to see much time at the point guard position. However, given Calderon’s size (6’3”) and ability to shoot from long range (career 41.1% 3-point shooter), it will be interesting to see whether Calderon could play along Jackson or Smith, especially when two rookies – Khyri Thomas and Bruce Brown – are likely to be relied upon for reserve shooting guard minutes.

As for Pachulia, he seems to be firmly rooted as a reserve center behind starter Andre Drummond and backups Jon Leuer and Henry Ellenson. But, with an 82-game season to play, injuries could very well force the 34-year-old Georgian big man into more minutes.

“I’m very excited about our two veterans in Pachulia and Calderon,” Stefanski added. “Both winners in the NBA. Both have won championships. Both – if you talk to people in the league – they’re as good a guys as you’re going to get, as professional as you’re going to get.”

Pistons Sign Zaza Pachulia

JULY 15, 12:37pm: The signing is official, the Pistons announced in an email.

JULY 8, 3:51pm: The Pistons have officially waived Moreland, according to a team press release.

12:09pm: Free agent center Zaza Pachulia has agreed to a one-year deal with the Pistons, tweets Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports. Pachulia will receive a veteran’s minimum salary of $2,393,887 with a $1,512,601 cap hit.

Pachulia will bring championship experience to Detroit as the backup for Andre Drummond. The 34-year-old won rings as a member of the Warriors in each of the past two seasons.

A rugged defender and rebounder, Pachulia appeared in 69 games with Golden State during 2017/18, averaging 5.4 PPG and 4.7 RPG. His role decreased in the playoffs as the Warriors opted for smaller, quicker lineups. Pachulia played in just seven postseason games, averaging 3.7 minutes.

The addition of Pachulia means Detroit no longer has a need for Eric Moreland, who will be waived, according to Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). Today was the deadline to make a decision on a $750K guarantee for Moreland’s $1,826,300 salary.

Warriors To Make Significant Changes This Offseason?

The Warriors brought Northern California yet another parade, celebrating their third championship over the last four seasons. Despite the nearly unprecedented success, the team will continue to evolve and coach Steve Kerr said there may be significant changes to the team’s roster.

“We had a lot of vets this year. I think you’ll see more youth and energy to help us get through all that,” Kerr told ESPN’s Zach Lowe on the scribe’s podcast. “We’re going to have to be very creative and we going to have pace ourselves again and hopefully everything comes together in the playoffs, but you never know.”

Several of the team’s veterans are set to become free agents and it sounds like Kerr is preparing to lose a number of them. Zaza Pachulia, who made roughly $3.47MM this past season, will hit the market. David West (approximately $1.47MM) may retire. Nick Young (slightly over $5.19MM) signed a one-year contract last offseason and will look for work yet again this summer.

If Golden State is going to hand out anything over the minimum, it will have significant financial ramifications on the club. NBA teams trigger the repeater tax penalties if it pays the luxury tax in a given season and has paid it in three of the previous four years. The franchise paid the luxury tax during the 2015/16 campaign as well as this past season. If the Warriors finish next season above the luxury tax line, they’ll face the harsher parameters on their payments.

Those fiercer penalties are as follows:

  • $0-5MM above tax line: $2.50 per dollar (up to $12.5MM).
  • $5-10MM above tax line: $2.75 per dollar (up to $13.75MM).
  • $10-15MM above tax line: $3.50 per dollar (up to $17.5MM).
  • $15-20MM above tax line: $4.25 per dollar (up to $21.25MM).
  • For every additional $5MM above tax line beyond $20MM, rates increase by $0.50 per dollar (ie. $4.75 for $20-25MM, $5.25 for $25-30MM, etc.).

The Warriors already have roughly $103MM in guaranteed salary on the books for next season and that’s before Kevin Durant gets whatever contract he wants. Not to mention Golden State plans to talk extensions with both Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

The luxury tax line is projected to come in at $121MM and while the team isn’t going to be frivolous with its top players, it may be more prudent with its fringe rotation players, as it will almost certainly be a luxury tax payer in the summer of 2019 and possibly beyond. It would be surprising if the team brings back Young at or near his current salary given his production and the franchise’s luxury tax repeater status.

The USC product sported a 3.1 player efficiency rating during this year’s playoffs. Of the 158 players who played at least 6.0 minutes per game this postseason, only four had a worse mark than Young. He saw a total of 205 minutes, though much of his court time came with the team ahead and the game nearly out of reach.

The Warriors found production on cheap deals in Jordan Bell and Quinn Cook this season, and it appears they will look to replicate that success by searching for young, affordable talent to fill out the roster behind Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, and their four All-Stars.

Warriors Notes: Pachulia, West, Young, Roster

Despite the success of the current group, the Warriors are expected to undergo some roster changes this offseason, writes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Those changes figure to be made more around the edges of the roster, rather than to the core, but the club has seven players eligible for free agency — of those players, only Kevin Durant is a lock to return.

According to Slater, it’s virtually a “sure thing” that Zaza Pachulia and David West will be gone, perhaps to retirement. It would also be a “stunner” if Nick Young returns, says Slater. As for their roster makeup, the Warriors almost certainly won’t carry as many centers next season, preferring to add a little more depth on the wing.

Here’s more out of Golden State:

  • Tim Kawakami of The Athletic also examines the Warriors’ 2018/19 roster options, identifying several possible free agent targets and noting that the team would like its first-round draft choice (No. 28 overall) to immediately vie for a rotation spot.
  • As Kawakami writes in a separate piece for The Athletic, the Warriors continue to keep an eye on the NBA’s very best players as potential targets, like they did with Durant prior to the summer of 2016. For now, that means they’ll monitor Anthony Davis, who will be eligible for a new deal in 2020. However, that’s very much on the back burner, with Golden State focusing on keeping its current core intact.
  • According to Kawakami, the Warriors grossed approximately $130MM in 11 home playoff games this year. Slightly lengthier series this spring resulted in an estimate significantly larger than in 2017, when the team grossed about $95MM in eight postseason contests.
  • ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) takes an in-depth look at the Warriors’ roster decisions this offseason, including Durant’s possible contract scenarios, possible free agent deals for Kevon Looney and Patrick McCaw, and what to do with the taxpayer mid-level exception.

Pacific Notes: Chandler, Kings, Ballmer, Pachulia

Suns center Tyson Chandler is unsure when he’ll be able to play again because of a neck injury, Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic reports. Chandler has missed five of the last six games due to swelling in a neck joint. That swelling has caused his neck to spasm and even lock up, Chandler told Bordow. “Coming back from the All-Star break I was looking forward to playing really well down the stretch,” Chandler said. “So it’s disappointing coming back having to deal with this.” The Suns miss Chandler’s leadership when he’s out, Bordow writes in a separate piece, noting the Suns are 5-25 when either he or Devin Booker doesn’t play.

In other news around the Pacific Division:

  • The fact that Kings coach Dave Joerger has agreed to a 10- or 11-man rotation shows that he has a good working relationship with GM Vlade Divac, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes in a mailbag column. Joerger had been asked to expand the rotation to get more minutes for his younger players, even though he’d probably prefer a shorter rotation, Jones continues. Divac also consults with Joerger on when to send players to the G League, Jones adds.
  • Clippers owner Steve Ballmer doesn’t believe in tanking despite the team trading away Blake Griffin to the Pistons late last month. Ballmer made the statement at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference and the quotes were relayed by ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz. “I think bottoming out is a dangerous game,” Ballmer said. “If you have to play it, maybe you have to play it. Then again, superstars don’t want to go to teams that look like absolute losers. … In a way you’re being dismissive of your fans by taking that big a step back.”
  • Warriors center Zaza Pachulia was not disciplined by the league for falling onto Thunder All-Star Russell Westbrook on Saturday, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post tweets. Westbrook called Pachulia a dirty player after the incident.

2018 Free Agent Stock Watch: Golden State Warriors

The Warriors may be on the precipice of breaking new luxury tax records but that seems like a suitable trade off for their run as one of the most dominant franchises in NBA history.

Sure, they’ll inevitably need to finesse things with their four core superstars but that doesn’t mean the club can’t still make a handful of responsible moves in the summer of 2018 to make their lives slightly simpler when push comes to shove.

The Warriors issued a pile of short-term deals last summer and may be in position to do so again. At the end of the day, retaining flexibility and not overpaying for players that aren’t business critical will be their top priorities.

Omri Casspi, SF, 30 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.1MM deal in 2017
Casspi has bounced around the NBA over the course of the past nine seasons, occasionally showing glimpses of solid value as a rotation player but his role with the Warriors may be his most relevant yet. While Casspi’s 16.1 minutes per game are the second least of his career (he played sparingly for the Cavs in 2012/13), he’s shown that he’s a competent bit character in Golden State’s title defense and the organization should look to retain that. Casspi can plug into the Warriors rotation when needed, as evidenced by the 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game he averaged in 14 December games, but his modest resume doesn’t demand consistent time or big-time money. It seems like both parties would benefit from his return on another cheap deal but don’t rule out other contending hopefuls trying to poach him away.

Kevin Durant, PF, 29 (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $53MM deal in 2017
After taking a discount so that the Warriors could retain players like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, Durant will have the chance to turn down his player option and go after a bigger contract now that the team’s other core pieces are in place. Durant is on a short list of players with enough clout to bounce from short-term deal to short-term deal, retaining future flexibility and keeping general managers on their toes but he could also ink a four-year max pact and go about his business. While Durant strikes me as the type of personality that may prefer the latter, he could potentially opt for the former if for no other reason than to give the organization options as they gear up for their forthcoming years-long battle with the repeater tax.

Kevon Looney, C, 22 (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $3.8MM deal in 2015
The Warriors made the decision to turn down the fourth-year of Looney’s rookie contract because at that point he hadn’t been able to show much value over the course of two injury plagued seasons. Looney has had a bit more of a chance to showcase his skills in 2017/18 but not enough to warrant major free agency interest. The Dubs may be able to bring Looney back on a minimum deal next season if they like the intangibles that he brings outside of game days but there’s no obvious case for it aside from the fact that they’ll need bodies and they know what he brings to the table.

Patrick McCaw, SG, 22 (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $1.9MM deal in 2016
The Warriors seem receptive to developing McCaw into a potentially reliable rotation player, as evidenced by their decision to start him six times already this season. To this point in the season, however, he hasn’t exactly flourished when given the opportunity. McCaw’s situation is much like Looney’s. He’ll be a cheap option that they’ve worked with in-house. Given the financial restraints that the front office will be dealing with due to the rest of the roster, they may be happy to retain a 22-year-old that they can at least potentially groom into a reliable rotation player.

JaVale McGee, C, 30 (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2.1MM deal in 2017JaVale McGee vertical
McGee put forth his most notable season in years when he debuted with the Warriors in 2016/17 but hasn’t replicated that success in 2017/18. Due to matchup issues in the small ball era and the emergence of rookie Jordan Bell, the team just doesn’t need McGee’s energy and length as much as it did in his first year with the team. Considering that the big man isn’t getting any younger, it’s hard to imagine him landing much on the market if all he could manage to yield after last year’s solid campaign was another one-year, minimum contract.

Zaza Pachulia, C, 34 (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $3.5MM deal in 2017
The Warriors have started Pachulia in all 109 of the games that he’s suited up in over the course of his two years with the franchise but this year his time on the court has dropped to its lowest point since 2009/10. Could that be an indication that the club is open to moving on in 2018? The Dubs gave Pachulia, a dinosaur in today’s game, more money than they needed to last summer but now that finances are even tighter, they may not be so generous. Expect Pachulia in a reserve role for the veteran’s minimum, if he’s even back in the Bay Area at all.

David West, C, 37 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.3MM deal in 2017
West has been an extremely productive role player for the Warriors off the bench in 2017/18, exactly what basketball fans outside of northern California feared when the former All-Star decided to crawl onto the Dubs’ bandwagon in 2016. West has had old-man game since he broke into the league, so regression isn’t exactly an issue. Expect him back playing meaningful minutes with Golden State until he decides to retire.

Nick Young, SG, 33 (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $5.2MM deal in 2017
Young is a potent three-point shooter that slots in well with the rest of Golden State’s rotation but does he provide enough to justify what his $5M+ contract will amount to when the luxury tax bill is calculated? The Warriors may gauge Young’s receptiveness to returning on a cheaper deal in 2018/19. If he isn’t interested, expect him to pound the pavement and eventually land somewhere as a hired gun on a short-term deal. If logic prevails, he’ll be a valuable depth piece with the Warriors for years to come… but that might be a big if.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bucks Discuss Trade For McGee Or Pachulia

In their search for help at center, the Bucks have talked to the Warriors about JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia, reports Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic.

Rookie Jordan Bell has moved ahead of McGee in Golden State’s center rotation and now is considered a co-starter along with Pachulia depending on the matchup. McGee hasn’t been pleased with his playing time or the fact that he was only offered a minimum contract last offseason and wasn’t promised a starting job. Thompson said he hasn’t been a problem off the court, but the Warriors are willing to move him if they can get value in return.

Pachulia would be tougher to part with, as coach Steve Kerr considers him the team’s best defensive big man. Thompson believes the Bucks also asked about Bell, but were probably turned down right away.

The teams seem like natural trading partners with the Warriors having five centers on their roster and Milwaukee needing frontcourt help after parting with Greg Monroe in the Eric Bledsoe deal. Golden State has been moving toward smaller lineups with Draymond Green and Kevin Durant seeing time in the middle, so McGee is reduced to playing in garbage time. The 29-year-old is averaging a career-low 8.1 minutes through 29 games.

The Warriors will probably seek guard help in any deal, Thompson adds, as Stephen Curry‘s injury has exposed a lack of depth at point guard and a need for another outside shooter. The team will eventually need to open a roster spot for Quinn Cook, who is on a two-way contract and is expected to surpass his 45-day NBA limit.

NBA Modifies Closeout, Continuation Rules

The NBA has decided to re-evaluate how it handles two particular fouling situations, Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press writes, and two players will see their names live on in notoriety as a result.

In what can colloquially be referred to as the Zaza Pachulia rule, officials will be granted authority to look at replays and make a judgment call as to whether or not a defender recklessly positioned his foot in an unnatural way after defending a shot. If necessary, the official can assign a flagrant or technical foul accordingly.

Pachulia’s name is the first to come to mind considering the impact that one particular moment this past spring had on the Western Conference semifinal. That series saw Kawhi Leonard fall to a sprained ankle after landing on a conspicuously positioned Pachulia foot after a closeout.

The second fouling situation that will be viewed differently in 2017/18 pertains to continuation. Officials, Mahoney writes, will now ensure that shooters are in their upward shooting motion when determining if a foul out on the perimeter is worthy of free throws.

Cited in the report as a common perpetrator of milking continuation calls is Rockets guard James Harden. By limiting the number of perimeter foul calls that lead to free throws, the league will disincentivize players from forcing unnatural shots after absorbing content.